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Moto, more or less

Don Dingee

Brands are such a touchy subject. I remember sitting in a marcom meeting in the late 1990s at Motorola. "Never, ever shorten the brand to MOT (the stock symbol) or Moto." Succumbing to market pressure and more experienced consumer media voices, the Moto shorthand was finally adopted in the "Hello Moto" campaign created by Ogilvy & Mather for the V60, aimed straight at Asia and Europe and a hipper crowd.

Motorola was, for generations, one of the most powerful electronics brands in China. If you dig into Chapter 7 of "Mobile Unleashed", that was one of the prime motives for Motorola to partner with Apple on an iTunes phone. And it was no doubt one of the reasons Lenovo wanted Motorola's phone business.

I'm sure the words "Moto by Lenovo" made Bob Galvin roll over in his grave. It was probably a necessary compromise for Verizon in the US. But it is a very slippery slope. The problem is now reversed - Chinese firms have a recognition problem.

So, the questions: what's it going to take to get Chinese mobile brands to translate to the US? Huawei has put in a lot of effort to be recognized. Xiaomi is still not a household word. Lenovo used its IBM legacy effectively at places like Best Buy. Does it even matter if Apple and Samsung, and to a lesser extent HTC and LG, have the US pretty well locked up? Or do the Chinese have to sell phones to sell other stuff like fitness bands, watches, and other IoT devices?
I don't think xiaomi is really trying to compete in the american market.

As for branding , one way to build a brand requires you be first at something important - so you'll be rememberered. And sometimes that "firstness" might be purely psychological , via ads, like nike. So apple was first in quality phones, Samsung was first at being the alternative to the iphone(for people who looked for that for all sorts of reasons) , the moto-g was the first great phone that was affordable and hence became a brand.

What is huawei first at that customers care ? Well they offer high value/cost - but not that much different from others. And the American market is less sensitive to that , and most people buy phones via carriers anyway , and huawei doesn't use that channel, but uses direct sales - so it has an even tougher challenge.

And in any case, i think they are more focused on europe , with their advertising campaign and they improve their results their, although such things are slow processes.

But i hear lenovo will release the first project tango phone, together with google , so maybe they will strengthen their brand if project tango becomes popular.